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2023 Sees Post-Pandemic Surge in US Student Visas

clock iconCreated At:21 August, 2023
write iconCreated By:Reem Mohamed

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In 2022, US student visa issuance surpassed pre-pandemic levels, leading government officials to expect a higher surge in the number of F-1 visa approvals during this fiscal year.

The last year unaffected by the pandemic, 2019, witnessed a total of 364,204 F-1 visas issued in comparison to the 411,131 visas issued in 2022, according to recent data from the US State Department.

These findings, along with current trends, lead the government to expect an even higher surge in visa issuances for students in 2023 than last year. 

This fiscal year, specifically up to the beginning of August, has already witnessed the issuing of over 393,000 F-1 visas, according to a state department official.

The changes happening in the US consulate after the pandemic included staffing shortages and a backlog of visa applications, which led to long delays for applicants and an overall scarcity of visa appointment slots.

Over in India, where the greatest demand for F-1 visas is, this year has been going much smoother, according to student recruitment agents.

Previously, some visa candidates had to travel to other cities, and sometimes even countries, to secure a spot. Some had to pay third-party “agents” hundreds of dollars just to book appointments on their behalf.

Now, however, the opening of a new US consulate in Hyderabad has created more capacity, thus allowing students in the region to get their visa appointments with ease and not have to travel far. Furthermore, appointments started opening up earlier in the year than before, which also helped reduce the last-minute rush over the summer.

According to Naveen Yathapu, a director at the recruitment agency i20fever, as a result of less demand, the charges for visa booking services on the black market have now dropped to around 2,000 rupees (USD $24). 

Among his approximately 4,000 students this year, Yathapu said that he had experienced around a 90% approval rate.

Students who were rejected, however, are faced with long wait times before they can get another appointment.

“The visa appointments were good for the first-timers, but what it meant was that the delay for the second-timers was pretty, pretty bad,” Yathapu said. 

Despite the US consulates releasing recent release of dates for second appointments for students who were previously not approved, Yathapu believes this was a step that came too late for many who will not be able to secure a visa in time for the fall intake.

“There’s no other option; they have to wait for six months. And a few kids don’t have the time to wait, so they look for an alternate country,” he noted.  

With experience from the previous year, the agent said that preparation for studying in the US is now starting at a much earlier time.

“Things have got better. Students are better prepared, and so are agencies like us, and so are actually the universities,” said Yathapu. “We know the problems, so everyone has actually started planning earlier.”

Some notable 2022 trends in the F-1 visa issuance movement include the following: 

  • In 2022, almost 70% of visas (274,880) were issued to students from Asian countries, including 115,115 to Indian students. This number is up from 80,451 in 2021.

  • A decline happened in the number of Chinese students who received a visa in 2022, declining from 28,416 to just 61,894 in 2022 due to ongoing travel restrictions.

  • Other big markets in Asia are the following countries: South Korea (18,066), Japan (11,460), Vietnam (12,330), Bangladesh (7,754), Taiwan (6,913), and Nepal (6,175).

  • Concerning Europe, the leading markets include Germany (7,248), France (7,025), Italy (5,957), and Spain (5,518). 

  • Just around 7% of all the visas were issued to students from Africa, with the biggest countries representing the continent being Nigeria (7,547), Ghana (3,331), and Ethiopia (1,951).

  • Despite concerns about visa refusal rates being high, these three African countries all saw growth compared to the year before, with approximately 6,000 more visas being granted to African students in total.

  • Over in South America, the largest number of students remained from Brazil (9,806), followed by Colombia (7,038). 


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